Before and After: The Secret to These Under-$500 Bespoke Built-Ins? IKEA, of Course

published Jul 11, 2021
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About this before & after
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Before: Plain wall with two arm chairs in front, plus a mirror mounted on the wall

When it comes to creating a cozy, luxe-looking living room, it’s hard to beat a wall of custom built-ins. Not only do they add character and architectural charm, but they also serve as a very practical storage spot. Of course, that comes at a cost — often thousands of dollars if you’re hiring a pro carpenter to build them from scratch.

UK homeowner Claire Douglas (@instahome_uk) knows that all too well. Her living room, while spacious, was a bit boring. “The room lacked character and style and despite having lots of space, natural light, and potential it was a really average room,” she says. “I’ve always dreamt of having a wall of built-in bookcases but didn’t have room in the budget for bespoke carpentry.”

So, she says, “like many other home improvers before me I turned to IKEA for help!”

Claire started off by purchasing and assembling four BILLY bookcases for the wall. From there, she added MDF to fill the gap between the tops of the shelves and the ceiling for a built-in look. She also glued MDF to the fronts of the bookcases to hide gaps between them and make them look like a single unit; Claire did the same on the edges, where the bookcases met the wall, and along the bottom of the bookcases.

Claire also filled in all the pre-drilled holes “to get rid of that ‘flat-pack’ look,” she says, and filled in all the seams where she added MDF. Then, it was time to sand, prime, and paint.

As for styling, Claire reached for free and cheap vases she’s been stocking up on from Facebook Marketplace. She also painted some vases she already owned, and cut greenery from her own garden to help fill them in (a totally free hack). Family heirloom books and DIY art helped fill in the rest of the shelving for a song.

The total cost for this seriously high-end design? Just £341.99 (about $475), “saving literally thousands compared to the cost of floor to ceiling bespoke joinery for a wall that size,” Claire says.

The new space is a far cry from the boring old wall that was there before. “I adore the space now!” Claire says. “I love how the room actually feels larger now as it’s a better use of space and your eye has lots to look at. It’s a real feature in the room and makes me happy!”

Inspired? Submit your own project here.